Morales' power key to protecting Pujols

Morales' power key to protecting Pujols

SEATTLE -- The hotter Albert Pujols gets as the No. 3 hitter, the more important it's going to be for Kendrys Morales to produce from the cleanup spot.

It's the switch-hitting Morales, who bats fourth for the Angels against right-handed starters, who can limit how drastically pitchers work around Pujols, who has homered in three straight games and has 22 RBIs in May.

Morales, however, hasn't been driving the ball like he did before his injury. Heading into Saturday's game against the Mariners, the Angels' designated hitter had hit just three homers all season and notched just one extra-base hit in May.

But Angels manager Mike Scioscia chalked that up to a small sample size and said he doesn't notice any rust from the slugger, who missed almost two full seasons with a left ankle injury that required two surgeries.

"We really don't," Scioscia said of Morales, who went into Saturday batting .285 with three homers and 12 RBIs. "It takes him maybe a little more prep time in the cage to get where he needs to be to play, and also I think eventually, if he gets to play a little first base, he'll feel better. There's a lot of things he's dealing with, getting used to just being a DH. But this guy can hit, he will hit, and there's no doubt, physically, everything he did a couple years ago is still there with him."